Dear posh department store: I really want to spend some money with you. I have twin boys, and being a bit of a fashionista with a weakness for international labels, I’m prepared to spend a bit of cash with you. With twins, I probably buy twice as much in one shopping expedition as your typical mum with a single child.
Yet I can't navigate my pram – a MacLaren Twin Techno, bought specifically because it’s the narrowest side-by-side available – around your childrenswear department without getting caught on fixtures and knocking display items off their pedestals. I know space is at a premium, but more often than not I end up going home with my wallet still heavy to log on to an online store (usually foreign) to do my shopping there. It really does bewilder, because who else is shopping at 11am on a Tuesday? Look around, retailers; do you see a few mums pushing prams? That's who you need to be designing your stores for. Oh, and it's not just you, posh department store – your not-so-posh competition is hardly better.
Supermarkets. We all shop in them and it could really be one of only three, maybe four, big names. I’ve been loyal to one major brand, but recently decided to give the other mob a go. Usually I grab a trolley and plonk the boys in, but the other day I had the pram and was only going to do a basket shop ... or that was my intention.
Piled to the left of the entrance were baskets being handed out by a very smiley woman. To the right were buckets of flowers, which were blocking my path. I backed out and tried the left side, manned by the smiling woman. This was blocked by her baskets. She stared at me as I tried to manoeuvre my pram around the baskets. She recoiled when I asked for help, so I called out to the sturdy young blokes busy stocking the fruit and veg section to see if they could assist my stuck pram. Help? It was all they could do to stare right through me. I let them know in my best loud Mad Cat Lady voice that on this day, said supermarket would be missing out on my patronage, then (clumsily and slowly) turned before flouncing off towards the competing supermarket. I'm sure they couldn't give a proverbial, but the attitude made me feel better about creating a scene. Hint: it wasn't Coles.
Next up: pharmacies. By their very nature, pharmacies are the sort of place one expects to be accessible for all. The new breed of warehouse-style chemist carries everything from hearing aids and walking frames to nappies and soft drink. But my visits are becoming less frequent these days, as the aisles become more narrow and cluttered.
Look around, retailers; do you see a few mums pushing prams? That's who you need to be designing your stores for
The other day I needed to pick up a script from a local pharmacy which has, ironically, rebranded itself as the go-to place for mums. But I couldn't even get through the security sensors at the front of the store, so over-bedecked were they in discount makeup, shower gel and bulk-buy toilet paper rolls. I was with my sister, whose burden is only a single, narrow Bugaboo. She got through the front door, but left an entire tower of cheap plastic sunglasses on the floor in her wake. Take this Mum's Advice and please clean up the clutter.
As for transport, I'm not going to play coy guessing games; I’m naming and shaming Sydney Buses for doing an utterly execrable job. I’ve been through a couple of instances of car trauma this year, and have had to rely on the bus. I don't usually mind – it’s a nice opportunity to get a few pages of a book read, or a chat with the mainly elderly passengers who catch the bus during business hours (and don't they all love twins!). But on one occasion, my own frustration measured barely a blip compared to the woman waiting along with me, who needed an accessible bus because she was in a wheelchair. We waited for more than an hour while the apparently wheelchair and pram-friendly buses sailed past with nary a ramp in sight. I registered my complaint, which I was assured would be followed up, but it never happened.
Of course I’ve saved the best for last. I don't really adore having a pram (love the kids, hate the bulky, heavy, unwieldy appendage) but what’s the alternative? I actually have three prams, each chosen for a specific purpose, so I don't understand why something designed specifically for the prams – a parents room – won’t let any of my prams past the threshold.
There’s a small shopping centre in Sydney's eastern suburbs (not Westfield) whose parents room is down a narrow hall that can only be occupied by one pram and person at a time (that is, if you’re driving a pram and there’s someone walking towards you, they can’t pass). Then the room is so small it won’t allow more than one person in … despite having three change stations. Who designs these things? Obviously not anyone who has ever needed a pram, or a wheelchair, or has even used a set of crutches!
Do you have any pram-pushing gripes to add to the list? Have your say in the comments below, or in the Essential Baby forum.